Strangers In a Strange Land, Part Three — Flying Things

I don’t know how long I’ve loved planes. Or rockets. And the reason I don’t know how long I’ve loved them is probably because I’ve always loved them.

So back in high school, when I was in DC, I used just about all of my free time to wander through every exhibit at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum on the mall. But since then, they’ve expanded with a second site, where they can hold many intact aircraft they’ve collected over the decades.

The Air & Space Udvar-Hazy Museum was basically my gift to myself for the trip. Because…Well, because of this:

Capture

Yep. That’s THE SPACE SHUTTLE. Discovery. As in “actually flown in space.” It was in space 39 times over 27 years. And I’m reasonably sure I’d watched just about every single one of those launches and landings over the years.

And I got to get this close to a real spaceship:

Capture

Did I mention that it’s been in space? Which means it’s had to go through the brutal heat of reentry? It’s got the battle scars:

Capture

And if you ever want to understand just how big and amazing a machine this is, you can stand right under the tail, and look up, and see this:

Capture

Okay. Let’s look at something else, eh?

Capture

That’s the Concorde–the fastest passenger jet ever made. And one of the sleekest, most beautiful aircraft ever.

There are a couple of things you realize either while wandering through the museum or shortly after leaving: everything there is beautiful, and a huge piece of flight history. And it’s a shame that none of them are flying…But at the same time, the fact that they’re not flying makes them such wonderful museum pieces. There are planes like a Constellation, the actual Enola Gay, the first Boeing 707, and the Blackbird–the world-record holder for speed and altitude in flight.

For those who have never been to Udvar-Hazy and love aircraft, you need to go, because this is the only argument needed:

Capture

See you later with more.